DROP ZONE: The Human Domain

[War] is both a contest of wills and a contest of intellect between two or more sides in a conflict, with each trying to alter the behavior of the other side. 

– Army Doctrinal Publication 3-0 Operations

Multi-domain thinking is a challenging topic to broach. In both the contemporary and anticipated future operating environments, a different set of challenges present themselves to battlefield commanders. The proliferation of technology, particularly information technology, allows adversaries to fight an infowar on top of posing a [conventional, unconventional, asymmetric, et cetera] threat to traditional military power. This requires a different approach to understanding, planning, and applying the various tools of the joint and coalition force to not only synchronize firepower, but also fight and win in the human domain.

However, many military traditionalists harken back to an age of peer force-on-force conflict where the objectives, enemy, and terrain were well-defined problem sets. With the “We-were-better-back-in-the-day” or “Multi-domain-is-just-joint-plus-cyber” mindsets, the US can fool itself into believing that it is much better than it actually is. Multi-domain thinking seeks to take us beyond the traditional understanding and application of the US military’s perception of “joint” and towards an understanding that the totality of the joint, interorganizational, and multinational force is required for victory.

This is best summed up by the Army Operating Concept where GEN David Perkins, TRADOC commander, says:

“The key to a Strategic Win is to present the enemy with multiple dilemmas. To compel enemy actions requires putting something of value to them at risk.”

The multiple dilemmas are not merely to place an adversary at risk, but also to force a specific set of decisions by enemy leaders. The US must outmaneuver our adversaries in the human domain.

In the upcoming weeks, OTH will be exploring the importance of the human domain to multi-domain operations. Frequently overlooked or dismissed, maneuver within this domain is just as valid of a concept as it is on land, sea, or in the air. It may be via an information operation, reflexive control, or cyber operations, but achieving effects in the human domain is the only way to achieve true strategic victory.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.


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3 thoughts on “DROP ZONE: The Human Domain

  • June 30, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Interesting concept, but is the exhortation to seek advantage in the human domain a novel idea or a contemporary take on Sun Tzu (e.g. to attack the enemy’s strategy or Sun Tzu’s five fundamental factors which include moral influence and command), Clausewitz, or Fuller (his mental, moral, and physical triad)? I look forward to reading more.

    • June 30, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      Not novel, but instead a focal point for operational planning. Too frequently we focus solely on effects in the physical domains — hill x seized; air superiority achieved; WMDs secured — rather than acknowledging the fact that these effects lack context without the understanding of how they affect an adversary’s decision making processes.

  • September 25, 2017 at 9:24 am

    The human domain becomes an increasingly important planning factor when operational analysis suggests that an objective we are trying to achieve can only be reached, in whole or in part, by changing the attitudes and/or actions of selected parts of the opposing society. It goes beyond merely recognizing the need to mitigate the effects that our actions in the physical domain may have on the civilian population to getting portions of that population to change their attitudes and/or behavior in some way that is deemed necessary for operational success. We continue to struggle with how to get this done!


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